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Review: Sully

Ros Hull

On Thursday, January 15, 2009, the world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson”.

Captain Chesley Sullenberger, nicknamed ‘Sully’ glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career. IMDb

Once again, I will quote the daughter who accompanied me to this film:

“Sooo much better than I expected – but I will never feel comfortable flying again!”

I, on the other hand, came out so utterly in awe of the professionalism of all the flight crew that I would be very happy to fly every day!

To be honest, I only wanted to see this film because of Tom Hanks. I sincerely believe his acting is so wonderful that I look forward to whatever film he makes next (except the Da Vincis, I draw the line at Da Vincis). In a world so often skewed away from the efforts of women and towards plaudits for men, there is one area where men are ever so slightly underrated: physical transformation for acting roles.

Meryl Streep gets lauded, the twittersphere is in awe of how Renee Zellweger loses and gains weight as needed but little was made of the transformation from ‘fat Tom’ to ‘skinny Tom’ for Cast Away. Don’t let the same dismissive acceptance of Hanks subtle skills happen when you see this film. Notice that he is thinner that he usually is, pay attention to how one shoulder droops slightly (just as the real Sully’s does) and pick up on his stance and his gait. They are not his, they belong to Sully.

I enjoyed every moment of this film. I thought it would be good but I was ever so slightly gobsmacked by the deft storytelling and the pared back filming style of the director, Clint Eastwood. It is the story, nothing more, nothing less. Characters are not demonised or sanctified in order to ramp up the drama nor are special effects overused to depict a story that could not have been invented.

Even the few brief scenes depicting what would be representative reactions of ordinary New Yorkers seeing another plane flying down between the skyscrapers are done without melodrama or tub-thumping.

The actions of every member of the crew during and after the event are so professional, so honest, that it made the story feel like it was happening in real time. Speaking of which, when the blackbox recording is played for the first time in the official hearing, we do see the events in real time. It was so visceral, so well done that I did not breath until they switched the audio off.

Regardless of the veracity of the depiction of events, this is still a film that would be suitable for older children these school holidays. Something that would challenge their idea of a hero perhaps – and certainly a story that shows the worth of knowing and understanding what needs to be done – and how important it is to practice and practice, so when a skill is needed, it is there.

PS – Don’t leave before the credits roll because there is some great footage of the real plane and the real rescue – and a filmed reunion of Sully, his crew, his wife and the thankful passengers.

Image via

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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